Last night, the House of Representatives approved the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act which “offers a path to citizenship for young people who were brought to this country illegally before age 16 and who have enrolled in college or entered the military.” The vote essentially split along party lines. However, eight brave Republicans bucked their party and voted in support of the DREAM Act.
The votes of three Florida Republicans — Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — came as no surprise. All three of them have been avid supporters of the DREAM Act. Rep. Anh ‘Joseph’ Cao (R-LA) was also a cosponsor of the DREAM Act and voted in favor of it last night. Cao, a Vietnamese immigrant, lost his bid for reelection this past November and had nothing to lose last night by voting for the bill.
The other three Republican votes were not a huge surprise, but they were also by no means in the bag. Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI) probably wasn’t afraid to vote “yes” as he will be leaving the House in January after a brief stint in Washington, DC. Although Djou appears to support Arizona’s draconian approach to immigration, he is himself a son of immigrants and has been a proponent of immigration reform that’s focused on attracting high-skilled labor to the U.S.
Rep. Vernon Ehlers’ (R-MI) stance was always a toss-up. A right-wing website describes his immigration record as moderate. “Representative Vernon Ehlers seems to take immigration reform as a pick and choose issue,” notes the website. He was declared “on the fence” by the DREAM Act Portal largely due to the fact he is retiring from the House at the end of the year. Rep. Michael Castle (R-DE) also has a fuzzy immigration record and his vote was unclear up until the very end. Castle is leaving the House after losing the Senate primary to Christine O’Donnell.
Rep. Bob Inglis’ (R-SC) “yes” vote was a little more out of the ordinary. The anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA — which grades lawmakers on how tough they are on immigration — gave Inglis an A+ over the course of his career. The DREAM Act Portal identified Inglis as a “nay” vote. Yet, the fact that Inglis lost the Republican nomination for reelection to a tea party-backed GOP candidate probably changed the political calculation behind his vote.
All of these Republicans come from vastly different states and backgrounds. The common denominator seems to be that they are all leaving (except for Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart). Apparently, the only Republicans with any spine on immigration are the ones who don’t have to worry about pandering for votes — which says a lot about how the Republican Party operates on the issue. The Senate has many fewer outgoing Republicans. However,Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) seems to think that he at least bought Democrats some time by holding a vote to table today’s DREAM Act vote to convince a few Republicans to cross the aisle on the widely supported issue.